2 The Local Business Owner s Buyers Guide To SEO and PPC Services Industry Insider Shares 5 Common Pitfalls & Scams to Avoid Plus What Questions You Should Ask Before Hiring an SEO/PPC Firm This Guide is designed to make you a smarter consumer when it comes to hiring an SEO/PPC firm for your small business. The information below will help you protect yourself, and your business, from industry practices that were not developed with your best interest at heart. Our goal with this Buyer s Guide is to keep things simple. We don t want to bore you with technical details or scare you about unethical business practices by SEO/PPC firms you re unlikely to encounter. What you will discover below are 5 of the most common pitfalls and/or scams that consumers of SEO/PPC services need to look out for. These were compiled based on my 8+ years in the industry, interviews with other industry insiders and discussions with small business owners about their experiences. So, without further ado, here are the pitfalls/scams you want to beware of 1. Guaranteed Page 1 Rankings Years ago I wrote a blog post with the odd title Monkeys Eating Red Bananas. Why? Well, the point of the article was this it s VERY easy to get your site ranked for obscure keyword phrases that are totally irrelevant to your business. And my point was quickly confirmed - within just 2 HOURS of posting that article it was ranked in the #1 spot on Google for the phrase monkeys eating red bananas. As I m sure you can imagine, ranking #1 for that term didn t do SQUAT for my business. (But, hey, my site was #1 on Google woohoo!!!) Here s the thing there are a number of SEO firms that say they ll guarantee you Page 1 rankings. Before you jump at that opportunity, understand what you re likely getting yourself into because these offers are usually a scam. Some unethical companies will simply run a PPC ad that shows up on Page 1 of Google for a few days at the most. They ll take a screen shot showing your site sitting pretty on Page 1, take your money and then turn the ad off thus putting an end to your Page 1 ranking. (FYI: Getting a PPC ad on Page 1 is a piece of cake but has NOTHING to do with organic search engine rankings which is what SEO is all about.)
3 Other companies take the Monkeys Eating Red Bananas approach to guaranteed rankings. They ll get your site ranked for crummy keyword phrases that your prospects wouldn t even think of typing into Google to find a business like yours. There s no competition (or traffic) for these keyword phrases which makes it quick and easy to rank for them but the rankings do your business no good whatsoever. However, that doesn t stop the companies who do this from collecting your money. Then there are the companies who ll get you ranked for your company name one of the easiest terms for you to rank for. A guaranteed ranking for your company name is nothing to get excited about. (While we re on this subject, some SEO firms will use branded traffic (ie. traffic from people searching for your company name) to make the results of their SEO efforts look a lot better than it actually is. Yes, you want to rank #1 for your company name. However, especially for a small business, your SEO efforts should focus on driving people to your site who are looking for the services/products you offer but aren t yet familiar with your specific company.) The bottom line here is this if you re gonna spend money on SEO services, make sure the efforts focus on keywords your ideal prospects are actually searching for!! While these keywords are harder to rank for and there are no guarantees for success at least you have a shot of getting an ROI on what you spend on SEO. Paying to rank for keywords that are irrelevant and/or get no traffic is basically like lighting your money on fire. So if a firm comes along promising you Page 1 rankings, be very, VERY suspicious. (And, as you ll discover a little later in this report, you really shouldn t be too worried about rankings anyway there s something else that s MUCH more important to focus on.) Questions to ask: What are they guaranteeing Page 1 rankings for PPC ads (i.e. AdWords), organic rankings and/or Local Search rankings? Do they guarantee the rankings on Google, Bing and/or some other site or search engine? What specific keywords are they going to be guaranteeing you rank for (and are they targeting branded or unbranded terms)? How were those keywords selected and do they have data that shows these keywords get traffic from legitimate prospects looking for the product/service you offer?
4 2. High Level PPC/SEO Services Don t Scale Well Yes, I m a bit biased here. But don t listen to what I have to say listen to Russ Henneberry. Russ is one of the top content marketing experts around, is responsible for building some of the most respected marketing blogs on the Internet and is one of the smartest guys I know. Before he did all that however, he led a team at a huge company that was tasked with trying to scale PPC/SEO/Local Search services for small businesses. Here s what he shared with me about that experience I used to work for one of the largest digital service providers on the planet. I won't name the company but suffice it to say that they were one of the only places to buy domain names in the early days of the Internet. I worked in the SEO department where we managed about 1,500 projects with a team of 15 or so developers at any one time. On the other side of the house we managed an equal load of PPC clients. My question from the time I walked in the door was: "Can you scale SEO/PPC at this level?" In other words, can a developer provide value to a client when he or she is managing 100 clients? Can a company provide value to a pool of 1,500 customers at a time? Can SEO and SEM be managed effectively by a single "boxed" process? I say "boxed" process because that's exactly what it was. It was a single product or process that was applied to EVERY website/campaign regardless of their circumstances. And the "box" was necessary. After all, you can't manage hundreds of projects simultaneously without a rigid process. Or, at least that was the company line. By the time I left that company in 2009, my question had been answered. Scaling SEO and SEM is possible --- but to the detriment of the customer. We made big money in our department --- for a while. Eventually the word got around that our process didn't work very well --- and sales suffered. My advice is to work with a smaller agency. Work with a developer and a project manager that's not overloaded with projects. It might cost more to get results but beware of the lowpriced "cookie cutter" product. Work with an agency that will consider YOUR circumstances and apply the right process to your business. Believe me, I d LOVE to be able to scale my company and help 1000s of small businesses! However, after looking at the results the big companies get, talking with a number of industry insiders and trying to find ways to effectively scale my company - I ve come to the same conclusion that Russ came to
5 SEO/PPC doesn t scale well in a way that produces good results for consumers. The industry giants got to where they are by leveraging one thing they are very good at scaling sales. But when they re sales forces come knocking on your door, be sure to do a lot of investigating about the actual RESULTS their companies produce for small businesses before you consider signing on with them. Questions to ask: Who s going to be managing your account (what s their background/experience level/training)? How much turnover is there at the company? How much automation do they use to manage the campaigns vs. having account managers actively working on your campaigns? Are they working with any of your competitors? If so, how do they differentiate the campaigns for YOUR company from your competitors campaigns? 3. Who Owns Your Site/Campaigns? Depending on the scope of your online marketing plan, you ll have a number of important assets online domain name, hosting account, website, Google AdWords account, Google Maps account, YouTube videos, Google Analytics, etc. Who owns all these? In most cases the answer should be YOU!!! However, not all SEO/PPC companies see things that way. In some cases, SEO, PPC and even web design firms think they should be the ones who own your website, domain name, hosting, etc. PLEASE avoid arrangements like that they are NOT in your best interest!! There are a few reasons why Sometimes companies simply go out of business and/or key people move on and your account info is lost, erased, etc. When that happens there s little hope you ll ever gain access to those accounts. Some companies will hold clients hostage for $1000s if the client wants to end the relationship. Then you re stuck and either have to pay a lot of money for what should rightfully be yours or lose EVERYTHING you had and start from square 1. (This is extortion, pure and simple.)
6 When it comes to Google AdWords, some companies (this is particularly common with a lot of the industry giants) never give you direct access to your account. That means you can t log in to see what keywords you re bidding on, how much you re actually paying for clicks, or get any other insights into what s really going on behind the scenes. (And if you sever ties, you ll lose all your account history which is important in AdWords - and have to start all over again.) I ve heard from former employees that these companies mark up AdWords click costs by 50% or so and the clients never know it. All the client gets is a pretty report each month that the SEO/PPC company provides that contains carefully selected data. It should be COMPLETELY transparent to you when it comes to what you re paying for clicks vs. what you re paying for PPC account management. That said, there are situations where it s okay if you don t own all the assets. For example, there are lead gen business models where you re essentially paying to rent the leads on web properties that the SEO/PPC provider has created. And that s perfectly fine - just make sure you know what you re getting into up front. Questions to ask: What assets are going to be used/created for your campaigns and who owns each of those assets (as well any intellectual property)? Will you have access to the usernames and passwords for all your accounts? Who else has access to them and what level of access do they have (i.e. Administrator, User) What happens to your web properties/accounts if the relationship is terminated? 4. Long Term Contracts This one s pretty simple avoid long term contracts. It can take about 3 months or so for an online marketing campaign to get off the ground. Because of that there are highly respected SEO/PPC companies that require an initial 3-4 month commitment so they re given an honest chance at optimizing a new campaign and making it work. Nothing wrong with that. Any more than 3-4 months, however, is unnecessary. My feeling is if a client s unhappy with us or we re unhappy with a client, why have a contract that locks us into the relationship? Forcing either or both sides to remain in an ugly marriage no one wants to be in isn t in anyone s best interests.
7 Our philosophy is that if we do good work, then clients will want to stay with us. There s simply no good reason for your business to get itself locked into a long term contract for SEO/PPC services. Questions to ask: Do you have to sign a contract? If so, what are the terms of the contract (especially are you getting locked into a long term deal)? What happens if you want to leave early? 5. Optimizing Your Campaigns for the WRONG Thing Are you familiar with Moneyball (the book by Michael Lewis that became the movie starring Brad Pitt)? It s the story of how Oakland A s General Manager Billy Beane changed the way baseball teams are built. The short version is most baseball executives assessed the value of baseball players by focusing on sexy metrics like home runs and strikeouts as well as baseball scouts intuition and experience. Beane and his assistant, Peter Brand, changed that. They took a highly statistical approach to the game and instead focused on valuing players largely on one metric - On Base Percentage. By using this unorthodox model, they turned one of the lowest payroll teams in baseball into one of the top teams in baseball. In the process they revolutionized the way many executives build Major League Baseball teams. Similarly, most SEO/PPC companies simply focus on the wrong things. With SEO, they often like to measure success in terms of rankings, site visitors and number of links built. With PPC, reporting is often based on metrics like Clicks, Clickthrough Rates and Impression Share. Yes, these are important metrics in helping to determine the effectiveness of campaigns, but they re FAR from the most important thing. Because as a business owner, you don t really care about Clicks, Rankings and Impression Share you care about LEADS. You want your phone to ring with qualified prospects that you have a good chance of turning into clients/customers/patients! And because it s leads (or, conversions, in online marketing lingo) that are most important to you, it should also be the most important thing for those managing your campaigns! That way everyone s measuring success the same way and working toward the SAME GOALS.
8 Campaigns that are not first and foremost focused on conversions have the following issues that are killing your results 1. They can t be optimized properly Let s use the example of a PPC campaign. For a local business, most of your leads are gonna come via phone calls. And, they can be a challenge to measure accurately. Now there are call tracking services out there that let you track phone calls. These services let you at least measure how many calls your PPC campaign is generating. And that s great except many PPC management companies don t use call tracking. But here s the other thing even the majority of companies that use call tracking are ONLY able to track the number of calls the campaigns generated. So what s wrong with that, you ask? Well, the problem is if ALL you re tracking is the number of phone calls, you re missing a BIG piece of the puzzle. What piece is that? The ability to identify the actual keywords and ads that are making the phone ring! That s a HUGE deal because, without that information, you can t effectively optimize a PPC campaign. Sure, you can look at the metrics like clicks, clickthrough rates and the like but the keywords and ads that get the most clicks may not be the ones that are driving the most phone calls. Missing out on that information leads to inefficient campaigns that waste your money on irrelevant clicks. Without this info you re also losing out on additional business that should ve been yours had your campaigns been optimized for the keywords/ads that actually produce the results. We ve been using a service that lets us see which keywords/ads make the phone ring and it s REVOLUTIONIZED things for us and our clients. Especially if you re in any sort of competitive niche with high click costs, having a system like that in place is critical to the proper optimization of your campaigns and focusing your ad budget on what s actually bringing in the business! Similarly, when it comes to SEO, rankings and site visitors are only part of the picture. More important is how many leads/conversions your SEO program is producing. Again, having proper call tracking in place (as well as trackable Contact forms on your site) is critical for optimizing things in a way that will result in more leads for your business.
9 Bottom line here if you can t measure LEADS, you can t accurately measure and optimize your campaigns for success. 2. Reporting is meaningless Again, at the end of the day, all you really care about is how many LEADS your campaigns are generating. Any reporting that doesn t give you a complete picture of the total number of leads you re getting from those campaigns is next to worthless. And that ties in directly to You can t determine the true ROI of your campaigns If you spend $1 on PPC or SEO, do you know how much you re getting back in return? That s an important question for every consumer of SEO/PPC services to answer. If you know you re getting $2, $5, or $10 back for every $1 you spend then you d make that trade every day, right?! In fact, you may try to find ways to invest more money into your marketing to grow your business even more. If you re not getting an ROI, then you need to reassess what you re doing who s doing it and whether it makes sense to give things more time, change direction or stop completely and invest your marketing dollars elsewhere. Either way, being able to accurately track the number of leads your campaigns are generating will give you a clear picture of your marketing ROI. And, as a business owner looking to make smart decisions about how to allocate your marketing dollars, you deserve to have the information you need to calculate your ROI! Questions to ask: What kind of reporting will you get how often, what kind of information will it provide, etc.? How are leads/conversions being measured? If your business gets a lot of leads via the phone, is call tracking being used? If so, what kind of data will the call tracking provide? We re big believers in the 80/20 Rule. And we believe that now you re aware of the information shared in this Buyer s Guide, you can avoid 80% of the pitfalls/scams you ll likely encounter.
10 So whether you re looking to hire a firm to manage your online marketing efforts or want to reevaluate the one you ve already hired, use the information and questions above to make smart decisions and protect your business. There are good online marketing firms out there now you know how to find them! Have Questions? Free Consultation Offer If you own a local service business and have questions about the information in this report, what marketing strategies make the most sense for your business or are interested in finding out about the unique SEO/PPC offerings Words That Click has, you can schedule a free 20 minute consultation with our founder Adam Kreitman by going to Adam has been in the online marketing world since He s a regular contributor to highly respected industry blogs including The Daily Egg and Digital Marketer and is also an Amazon.com Best Selling Author. He s been featured on both NBC and ABC and has spoken to numerous groups to share his expertise on Google AdWords and Local Search marketing. He was also named to a list of 20 Smokin Hot Pieces of Brain Candy which included marketing legend Seth Godin and consulting superstar Alan Weiss. As a thank you for reading this report, Adam is offering you a FREE 20 minute consultation. To sign up, visit his online appointment scheduler to find a time that works for you. You can find the scheduler at